Brazilian High Court Judge Reverses Decision to Return Son to American Dad

By Eduardo A. de Oliveira, EthnicNEWz reporter
David and Sean Goldman. (Photo:

David and Sean Goldman. (Photo:

After nearly five years of an international custody battle that has drawn the attention of the Obama administration and members of Congress, American model David Goldman flew to Brazil a few days ago to finally be reunited with his son Sean.

On Monday, June 1, Brazilian federal judge Rafael de Souza Pereira Pinto, of Rio de Janeiro, ruled that Sean should be handed to the local American Consulate in 48 hours. In an 82-page ruling, the judge also determined that Sean could travel to New Jersey accompanied by his Brazilian relatives.

Once in U.S., the judge determined, in the first two weeks Sean would spend days with the Brazilian part of his family, and nights with Goldman. After that period, the 9-year-old boy, whose Brazilian mother died while giving birth to a baby girl last September, would stay with his father indefinitely.

But that ruling lasted less than 24 hours.

On Tuesday evening, Minister Marco Aurélio de Mello, one of Brazil’s 11 Supreme Court justices, used a hand-written legal embargo to suspend the boy’s return to the U.S.

The minister’s decision was based on the grounds that Judge Pinto’s decision went against the Brazilian Constitution, and that it could cause psychological harm to the boy.

Brazil is a signatory of the Hague Convention, an international treaty that provides that any child taken away from his or her habitual residence without the express consent of both parents should be returned within 6 weeks. Sean has been in Brazil for 4 years and 11 months after his mother decided to stay there during what was supposed to be a short visit, then divorced Goldman and married a Brazilian lawyer. She died last year of complications during the birth of a daughter.

“He is smarter than I was at 9-years old. He manifested the will to stay in Brazil. For someone who remained here for 5 years, what are some days or weeks?” Mello told Brazilian reporters today.

Judge Pinto’s said in his ruling that Sean Goldman had responded to government officials that “it doesn’t matter” when asked if he wanted to stay in Rio or move back to New Jersey.

“It was only when in the presence of a representative from the Brazilian family that the boy said he wanted to stay in Brazil,” Pinto’s decision said.

Some Brazilian immigrants in the U.S. expressed displeasure with the Supreme Court ruling.

“It’s exactly because of the influence rich people have on our judicial system that I moved to the U.S.,” said one unidentified listener on Framingham, Massachusetts station WSRO, 650AM.

The Brazilian family claims that Sean Goldman is a “Brazilian natural citizen,” because he was registered at the Brazilian Consulate of New York. However, the Brazilian Constitution only considers children born to military or diplomatic families –parents serving Brazil’s interest abroad– to be citizens of Brazil born in a foreign land.

Goldman was a model, worked in real estate and also drove a boat. Sean’s mother, Bruna Bianchi Ribeiro, was a tutor of Italian.

Congressman Chris Smith (R.-N.J.) had intended to join David Goldman in Brazil. Instead he brought the case to the floor of the House of Representatives Wednesday night.

“Child abduction is a serious crime that no legitimate government or self-respecting judicial body anywhere on earth should ever countenance, support, or enable, by either direct complicity or incompetence,” Smith said.

Goldman is on his way back to the U.S., where he will appear on Larry King Live on CNN Thursday night.

Brazilian media is reporting that the country’s Supreme Court is likely to address Sean Goldman’s case next Wednesday, but the court’s final decision remains uncertain.

For more read Eduardo A. de Oliveira’s blog O Globo, at a major daily newspaper in Brazil .